Boxing needs video reviews after Charlie Edwards incident, says Eddie Hearn

By Michael EmonsBBC Sport at the 02 Arena, London
Julio Martinez
Mexican Julio Martinez (right) thought he had taken the WBC flyweight belt from Britain's Charlie Edwards

Boxing needs to use video technology to help officials, says leading promoter Eddie Hearn.

Britain's Charlie Edwards appeared to be losing his WBC flyweight belt when he was counted out against Mexico's Julio Martinez in London on Saturday.

But the fight was ruled a no-contest when big-screen replays showed Martinez had punched Edwards in the ribs when his knee and glove were on the canvas.

"Essentially it was VAR for boxing and it was 100% right," said Hearn.

Video assistant referees (VAR) have been introduced in Premier League football this season to adjudicate on goals, penalties and potential red cards while cricket uses technology to judge on wickets, and tennis utilises the Hawk-Eye system to see if the ball landed in.

Charlie Edwards
Martinez's punch to the ribs of Edwards came when the Briton's knee and fist was touching the canvas with referee Mark Lyson unsighted

What happened?

During the third round of Saturday's fight at the O2 Arena, Martinez hit Edwards - defending the title for the second time - with a number of head and body shots, forcing the Briton to put a glove and knee on the canvas.

As soon as that happened, fighting should have stopped with the referee starting a count and the other boxer moving to one of the corners. Martinez, however, struck Edwards in the ribs again and the Londoner, rolling in pain, was counted out.

The capacity crowd booed Martinez when the replays were shown on 12 big screens, again when he was announced as the winner, and also during his post-fight interview.

After seeing the replays, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman overruled the decision from ringside, declaring the bout a 'no-contest'.

Charlie Edwards and Eddie Hearn
Edwards and promoter Eddie Hearn cannot believe the original decision as the Briton seems set to lose his WBC world flyweight title...

"It [the punch] was so late it was next week," said Hearn. "When they played it back it was that bad they were able to make a decision instantly. I didn't expect them to do it and I've not seen anything like it.

"The WBC have a rule with video replays - they like to have it in-play but the British Boxing Board of Control and some other commissions do not.

"But with all the screens up it was easy for the president to say 'it's a no contest, I don't need to review it or go before a committee - it's my decision'.

"I don't see a downside of doing it in a sport where there's so much on the line."

Mauricio Sulaiman
...after the incident was replayed on the big screens at the O2 Arena, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman told Martinez that the bout was declared a 'no contest'

Sulaiman immediately ordered a rematch, and Edwards felt the change of verdict was correct.

"I took a knee for a purpose," added the Londoner. "He finished me off with a body shot and I couldn't recover.

"Cheaters never prosper. We get in this ring to abide by the rules."

The result means Edwards retained his belt and his record of 15 wins and one loss.

Fans will say 'why not?' - Hearn

Since the introduction of VAR in the Premier League, there has been criticism of the length of the delays, on occasion it has taken up to two minutes before a decision has been made on the validity of a goal. Hearn said decisions would be much quicker in fights.

"It's not like it will slow boxing down - that's what people say about football and cricket," said Hearn.

"The media and everyone is talking about it and it's a question where fans will say 'why not?'

"There's maybe too much VAR in football but it would be minimal cases in boxing - they wouldn't refer to it every round but where it's an important decision and something that could affect someone's career and livelihood.

"If you lose a belt you are no longer champion and it's the difference between making £1m and £50,000, we have to get it right."

Charlie Edwards
Edwards celebrated the 'no contest' verdict, which meant he retained his world title